BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON
          ELECTIONS AND CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
                            Senator Benjamin Allen, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:             AB 363         Hearing Date:    6/30/15    
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Author:    |Steinorth                                            |
          |-----------+-----------------------------------------------------|
          |Version:   |5/19/15    Amended                                   |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Consultant:|Frances Tibon Estoista                               |
          |           |                                                     |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          
                           Subject:  Closing of the polls

           DIGEST
           
            Authorizes county elections officials, on Election Day, to begin  
          accounting and processing polling place ballots during the day,  
          instead of waiting until the closing of the polls.  Requires  
          county elections officials, at least 48 hours before an  
          election, to notify the public of the dates, times, and places  
          ballot containers will be delivered and also requires the  
          Secretary of State (SOS) to adopt regulations addressing secure  
          delivery and transfer of ballots to a receiving center or  
          central county place.

           ANALYSIS
           
          Existing law:

           1) Requires members of a precinct board to account for ballots  
             delivered to them by returning a sufficient number of unused  
             ballots to make up, when added to the number of official  
             ballots cast and the number of spoiled and canceled ballots  
             returned, the number of ballots given to them.

           2) Requires members of a precinct board, as soon as the polls  
             are closed, to remove the voted ballots from the ballot  
             container and take them out of the secrecy envelopes or  
             detach them from the secrecy stubs.  Requires the precinct  
             board to count the number of ballot cards in each group, and  
             certify the number of ballots cast on the voting roster, as  







          AB 363 (Steinorth)                                      Page 2  
          of ?
          
          
             specified.  Requires the precinct board, if there is any  
             discrepancy between the number of voters listed in the roster  
             and the number of ballots voted, to note this fact with an  
             explanation of the difference signed by all the members of  
             the precinct board.  

           3) Requires precinct board members to group voted ballot cards  
             and voted separate write-in ballots, as directed by the  
             elections official, and place them in containers.  Requires  
             the board to place spoiled and void ballots, if any, in  
             containers as directed by the elections official.  Requires  
             all the containers to be placed in one or more boxes and  
             sealed and delivered as soon as possible to the receiving  
             centers or central counting places with the unused ballots,  
             supplies, and other materials as directed by the elections  
             officials. 

           4) Prohibits the removal of a ballot container from a polling  
             place or the presence of any persons assembled at the polling  
             place until all the ballots are counted and prohibits the  
             ballot container from being opened until after the polls are  
             closed.
          This bill:

          Authorizes county elections officials, on Election Day, to begin  
          accounting and processing polling place ballots during the day,  
          instead of waiting until the closing of the polls.   
          Specifically, this bill:  

           1) Authorizes a precinct board, when accounting for ballots at  
             the closing of the polls, as specified, to either account for  
             the ballots at a polling place or to be performed by the  
             elections official at the central counting place.

           2) Permits a county elections official, before the closing of  
             the polls instead of at the close of the polls, to direct a  
             precinct board to seal the ballot container and record on  
             forms prescribed by the elections official the information  
             needed for the reconciliation of ballots, as specified. 

           3) Allows a county elections official to direct a precinct  
             board to seal the ballot container prior to the closing of  
             the polls in accordance with existing law.  Permits a county  
             elections official, as soon as the container is sealed, to  








          AB 363 (Steinorth)                                      Page 3  
          of ?
          
          
             direct at least two elections officials to remove the sealed  
             ballot container of voted untallied ballots from the polling  
             place and, in the presence of any bystanders, to deliver the  
             container to a receiving center or central counting place as  
             directed.

           4) Requires the elections officials, to notify the public 48  
             hours before election day of the dates, times and places  
             where ballot containers will be delivered.

           5) Allows a county elections official, upon receipt of a  
             container at a receiving center or central counting place, to  
             process the voted untallied ballots, but prohibits the tally  
             of ballots or release of any results prior to the closing of  
             the polls.  Provides that the procedures described shall not  
             be construed as relieving a precinct board of its  
             responsibility to account for ballots in accordance with  
             existing law. 

           6) Requires the Secretary of State (SOS) to adopt regulations  
             addressing the secure delivery and transfer of ballots to a  
             receiving center or central counting place.

           7) Makes other technical changes.

           BACKGROUND
           
           Closing of the Polls Procedures  :  Once the polls close, existing  
          law requires members of the precinct board to account for  
          ballots delivered to them whether voted, unused, spoiled, or  
          canceled.  This process is commonly known as ballot  
          reconciliation.  Existing law prohibits a ballot container from  
          being opened until after the polls are closed and further  
          prohibits the removal of a ballot container from a polling place  
          until all ballots are counted.  Once reconciliation is completed  
          ballot containers are allowed to be delivered to their assigned  
          receiving center or central counting location for processing.

           COMMENTS
                                           
            1) According to the author  , AB 363 will improve election  
             efficiency by allowing for ballots to be picked up and  
             processed prior to the close of polls. In doing so, election  
             results may be reported earlier on election night, and  








          AB 363 (Steinorth)                                      Page 4  
          of ?
          
          
             counties will save taxpayer dollars by reducing overtime  
             costs.  Further, this bill will give election officials the  
             option to modify current ballot reconciliation procedures in  
             an attempt to make them more effective and secure.  Existing  
             law allows for absentee ballots to be processed prior to the  
             close of polls, however, does not treat ballots cast at a  
             polling place the same way.  Allowing for election officials  
             to begin counting these ballots as well will improve the  
             election process.

           AB 363's improved ballot reconciliation process will make  
             results more accurate and secure, because reconciliation will  
             take place in a controlled environment, under the supervision  
             of election professionals.  If a discrepancy is found by the  
             elections officials, he/she has the authority to investigate  
             further, as opposed to poll workers who have no authority to  
             act upon any inconsistencies.  Voters may feel more secure in  
             knowing that their voted ballot cannot be tampered with by  
             poll workers, because the ballot box will be sealed and  
             securely moved to the counting location without being handled  
             by poll workers at the polling place.

            2) Greater Transparency  ?  Many counties, especially large  
             counties, encounter late reconciliation issues partly due to  
             the size of the county which requires elections staff to be  
             on the road for hours driving to remote polling places to  
             pick up ballot containers and then delivering them back to a  
             central processing location.  Due to their large geographical  
             size, these large counties are unable to report election  
             night reports until late into the morning of the day after  
             Election Day.  Moreover, while existing law requires the  
             reconciliation process to be open to the public, in practice,  
             once the polls close many individuals are not around to  
             monitor and ensure ballot reconciliation is done properly.   
             This bill, which permits the reconciliation of ballots to be  
             accomplished at a central counting location, may provide more  
             transparency by making it easier for the public to ensure  
             ballots are properly being handled as the ballots will be  
             reconciled, processed, scanned, and tabulated at the same  
             place at certain times throughout the election day.

                               RELATED/PRIOR LEGISLATION
           
          SB 417 Stone of this session is similar to this bill, but only  








          AB 363 (Steinorth)                                      Page 5  
          of ?
          
          
          applies to counties with a geographic area of at least 2,500  
          square miles.  SB 417 was recently referred to the Assembly  
          Elections and Redistricting Committee.

           PRIOR ACTION
           
           ------------------------------------------------------------------ 
          |Assembly Floor:                       |78 - 0                     |
          |--------------------------------------+---------------------------|
          |Assembly Appropriations Committee:    |17 - 0                     |
          |--------------------------------------+---------------------------|
          |Assembly Elections and Redistricting  |  7 - 0                    |
          |Committee:                            |                           |
           ------------------------------------------------------------------ 
                                           
          POSITIONS
           
          Sponsor: San Bernardino County

           Support: California Association of Clerks and Election  
                   Officials
                    California State Association of Counties
                    Rural County Representatives of California
                    Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
                    Urban Counties Caucus

           Oppose:  None received

                                          
                                      -- END --